I really believe that in the 21st century with our "always-on culture", the topic of time management is not as much about how we manage our time as it is how we manage our energy. Time and energy are linked together, but understanding where we are putting our energy really informs our time. The management of time was important in the Industrial Age. The management of our energy is what is essential in the Digital Age.
We all have the same amount of time in a day and the same amount of days in a week. Everyday we get: 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds. Our time is non-refundable and non-renewable. However, did you know that our energy is renewable?
How can some people tackle days and minutes so well, while others barely seem to make it through each day? Some of us exceed expectations and some of us feel in a constant state of disappointment and free fall. It reveals how we must be very selective on how we use our energy and time. Our day and time requires that we have a new approach. This new approach begins in our minds and our life perspectives.
Do you have the fuel in your tank to meet your own expectations and the expectations of others? Do you have all the stamina you need to sustain all that is on your plate?
I love this question from the book Survivor Personality: Why Some People are Smarter, Stronger, and more Skillful at Handling Life’s Difficulties…and How You Can Be Too by Al Siebert:
If you were asked, "If you wanted to develop a serious or fatal illness on purpose, what would you do?"
- Be self-frazzling. Live a fast-paced, hectic life. Don’t get adequate rest. Stay up late, get up early. Keep energized with caffeine.
- Eat fatty and salty foods. Drink beverages loaded with sugar. Avoid vegetables, fresh fruit, and whole grains.
- Smoke and drink frequently. Use tranquilizers and stimulants to control moods.
- Get angry with others but hide your feelings. Worry constantly. Feel unhappy, but pretend to be happy.
- Get deeply into debt. Don’t pay bills, and become fearful whenever the phone rings or someone knocks on the door.
- Dislike your life and your relationships, but do nothing to make any changes. Blame others for your unhappiness. Feel helpless and hopeless. Feel trapped.
- Count on winning the lottery as the solution to your difficulties.
Of course, none of us would intentionally plan on developing a serious or fatal illness, that seems ridiculous. However, when we don’t live an intentional life, that is exactly what we end up doing. We are the sum of our habits and for some of us, our habits are taking us down a dangerous road.
Leaders today have to be more self-motivated and self-directed than ever before. I believe that managing one’s energy and priorities are critical skills for success in our information and technology-driven society. If our well-being and our values are not anchored in the most important, you and I will be simply consumed by the tsunami of our surroundings and relationships. We will be drained emotionally and eventually consumed. It’s critical that we acknowledge our body’s natural rhythms and align our periods of work and relaxation to them. It’s even more important to have peace of mind and a proper life perspective. I love this verse from Isaiah:
"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint”
- Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)
The focus here is on our perspective.s God is a big God. He can be trusted with our lives. Often, we are overwhelmed when we focus on ourselves and all that has to be accomplished. He can be trusted with every detail of our lives.
The root of all our disappointments and stress lies with unmet expectations either within us or from others. The reality of those unmet expectations directly affects our energy levels. It takes enormous amounts of psychological and emotional energy to wade through managing the expectations of others. It also takes a depth of confidence in our heart and soul to know we are focusing on what matters most to us. If you feel tossed around or simply floating where the current is taking you, here are four perspectives to help manage your time and energy in order to live out your values.
#1 Our Time Management Must Begin With Our Self-Awareness.
- Tough-minded discipline is needed to protect those things that matter most to you.
- It has been said that Self-Awareness is our greatest defense against self-deception. How well do you honestly know yourself? Do you know what you do when you are tired, stressed or worn out?
- It can’t be said enough. You will disappoint others. It’s inevitable. Tough-minded discipline means focusing on those items that only you can do and should do in your personal and professional world.
- There are a plethora of options available to us to schedule our lives. We live in a day and time where we have so many different tools like Asana, Things, iCal, Evernote, Texting, iMessaging, etc. We are the most organized society ever, and yet the most overwhelmed and consumed by the unimportant.
- Do you know what matters most to you? What do you use to measure and confirm that you are making those things or people a priority in your life? Are those things present on your calendar? Do you fund those values? Do you even know where to start?
- You are a finite being. You and I have limitations. You only have so much to give. Once it is gone, it needs to be replenished.
- Trees shed their leaves and are dormant before there is regrowth. What do you need to shed in order to grow?
- List out the top 5 people, places, and tasks that you have spent the most time on over the past three weeks. Does your list reflect what is most important to you?
#2 Our Time Management Must Be Rooted In Our Values.
- You must identify your personal values and your professional values in order to manage your time and energy well.
- If you have no idea what your personal and professional values are you will NEVER truly show value to them. Our values may get time and attention when there are problems, but for the most part, we are creatures that gravitate towards the path of least resistance. Unless there is something screaming at us or the tyranny of the urgent is knocking at our door, we are mostly going through the motions each day.
- Key: When we are not prioritizing what is most important to us, our energy is drained.
- What are your personal values? Write them down. What are those things that are most important for you to execute in your profession? Have you ever taken time to identify those things?
- Have you, as a leader, lost your ability to filter what is important and what isn’t?
- Remember, it's not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.
- List out five personal and professional values. What is most important to you. Where do you want to spend most of your time?
#3 Our Time Management Must Be Established by Our Intentionality.
- If you don’t know what’s most important, you can’t plan around it and make sure you keep it most important.
- This should be self-explanatory but most of the time it isn’t. While this truth is simple it has become so complex for us to live by.
- Some of us are planners and some of us are not. If we don’t choose to place importance on being with those we love and taking care of the great responsibilities that have been given to us, they will fall by the wayside. Believing we need to plan is the first step.
- This doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.
- This means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, you deliberately distinguish the vital few from the trivial many.
- Is there a point at which doing more does not produce more? Is there a point at which doing less (but thinking more) will actually produce better outcomes?
- Our routines can be the most powerful skill we use to make sure we are living out our values.
- List out five routines that could help you live out your personal and professional values.
#4 Our Time Management Must Be Protected by Our Boundaries.
- You have to practice patience and perseverance in order to experience breakthrough.
- Most things that need to change in our lives are extremely difficult. We often run to extremes and expect a quick fix for our current dilemmas. Deep down we know that there aren’t any fast fixes, but we try anyway.
- It might help to view our time like we do our money. Each minute or hour is a dollar. How much time, i.e. money is going towards your values? How much is going towards those less important items in your life?
- I love this quote from the book, The Survivor Personality, "the challenge for each of us is strain, not stress. The world is not filled with stressors darting around like invisible piranha eating away at you. There is no stress in any situation until you feel strain.” Our reality is that we are and will experience even more strain around our time and life.
- To manage energy, you have to have energy. Create the boundaries needed to protect your energy.
If we want our lives to be different, then that difference has to be based on something. Scientists have explained that every habit is made up of a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue is a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine— the behavior itself— which can be physical, mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular habit is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop— cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward— becomes more automatic as the cue and reward become neurologically intertwined.
Managing our energy takes time and real focus. Changing our operating systems is really hard, and they need to be rebuilt from the ground up, little by little. Think Flywheel. You are building a new flywheel AND creating slow, powerful, movement towards those things that matter most to you. Unfortunately, no one can do the new habits for us, they can only cheer and coach us along. Take time to identify what is most important to you, and be honest on how you are valuing those things. Successful people know that making small continuous improvement every day will be compounded over time and give them desired results. This is even more true when it comes to our energy. We receive compounding results, even in the most stressful of times, because we have the energy to engage it.
Get the sleep you need. Turn off your phone and choose to unhook. Arrange your schedule to suit your personal energy rhythm. Avoid draining your energy throughout the day as much as possible. Recharge throughout your day and take breaks. Monitor and be honest with how you feel.
Our energy is renewable. Our time is fleeting. Choose to invest in those areas of your life that are most important and rewarding. I promise, you will never regret it.
I believe that our best days are before us…not behind us. We all need a little encouragement, wisdom, and help from time to time. We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own. We need each other. Remember, you are not alone. It’s time to thrive. Let’s do it together.